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Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme

If you’re referred to hospital or other NHS premises for specialist NHS treatment or diagnostic tests by a doctor, dentist or another primary care health professional, you may be able to claim a refund of reasonable travel costs under the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS).

What are the qualifying benefits and allowances?

You can claim help with travel costs if you or your partner (including civil partner) receive any of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit (WTC) with Child Tax Credit (CTC)
  • WTC with a disability element or a severe disability element
  • CTC but you’re not eligible for WTC
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • You receive Universal Credit and meet the criteria

You can also claim for help with travel costs if:

  • you’re named on, or entitled to, an NHS tax credit exemption certificate (if you do not have a certificate, you can show your award notice) – you qualify if you get child tax credits, working tax credits with a disability element (or both), and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less
  • you have a low income and are named on certificate HC2 (full help) or HC3 (limited help) – to apply for this certificate, you should complete the HC1 form: claim for help with health costs, which is available from your local hospital, Jobcentre Plus offices or the NHS print contract order line on 0300 123 0849.

How do I claim a refund?

To claim your travel costs, take your travel receipts, appointment letter or card, plus proof that you’re receiving one of the qualifying benefits, to a nominated cashiers’ office.

Nominated cashiers’ offices are located in the hospital or clinic that treated you. They’ll assess your claim and make the payment directly to you.

In some hospitals, the name of the office you need to go to may be different (for example, the General Office or the Patient Affairs Office). If you’re not sure, ask reception or Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS) staff where you should go.

Some hospitals and clinics do not have cashier facilities. In this case, you can complete an HC5(T) claim travel charges form and post it to the address stated on the form.

You can make a postal claim up to three months after your appointment took place.

Useful numbers

  • Call 0300 330 1348 for the dental services helpline
  • Call 0300 330 1343 for the Low Income Scheme helpline
  • Call 0300 330 1341 for queries about medical exemption certificates
  • Call 0300 330 1341 for queries about prescription prepayment certificates (PPCs)
  • Call 0300 330 1349 for the prescription services helpline
  • Call 0300 330 1347 for queries about tax credit certificates
  • Call 0300 123 0849 to order a paper copy of the HC12, HC5 and HC1 (SC) forms
  • Call 0300 330 1343 for all other queries

 

More information about travel costs at the NHS website

A new way for outpatients?

A new way for outpatients? Have your say

 

Survey deadline extended – there’s still time to share your views with us on outpatient services – both existing care and plans for future changes to some appointments.

 

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside, is looking at how it might change outpatient appointments.

Potentially this might replace some or all routine follow up appointments that would normally have been planned and would allow you to contact your clinic if you have any concerns.
Northumbria Healthcare has asked us to find out your views about this and to understand what would be important to you to make follow up care better.

If you have regular outpatient appointments now, or have ideas how a previous appointment could have been improved, please tell us here.

As a thank you for your time you can be entered into a prize draw for £50 shopping voucher.

Have your say on outpatients appointments

This survey has now closed

new care facility Rothbury

Rothbury Community Hospital update

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has given an update on work which will enable a new model of care to be delivered from Rothbury Community Hospital:

 

The pioneering strategic health and social care partnership between ourselves and Rothbury Cottage Care Ltd, which is part of People First Care, will see a package of community care being available for the residents of Rothbury and surrounding villages. The work, which will take up to four months to complete and is being delivered and managed by Rothbury Cottage Care Ltd, will involve transforming the inpatient ward at the hospital into a homely residential care home with the provision of flexible NHS beds.

It is hoped that the community health and social care facility will be opened by November.

The flexible NHS bed provision will be available for patients who need longer-term recuperation and rehabilitation and end-of-life care. The facility will receive clinical support from a team of district nurses, GPs and nurse practitioners and will be provided alongside healthcare currently provided in the community and in peoples’ homes.

The clear admission criteria we have for both services should give confidence in the care that will be provided whether someone is in an NHS or resident care bed.

Stark lessons learnt from the last two years include that healthcare provision needs to be flexible if it is to be sustainable and that the focus should not be on beds, but on what is going to enable patients to get better and recover as quickly as possible and the best use of our staff and resources. It is clearly evidenced that medically fit people should not be in hospital beds.

It is fantastic that we are able to be part of a partnership which offers holistic care for people. We are also mindful that this is a new model of care so a detailed review of the NHS provision will be done at three and six-month intervals. They will include the number of admissions to health beds, reason for admission, length of stay, if patients are unable to access the health beds, including their reason for needing admission, and feedback from staff and patients. We can then make any changes that we need to.

This is the first time that Rothbury has had a residential care home within the village. Rothbury Cottage Care Ltd want to make the environment as homely as possible. The 12 rooms will all be en-suite and residents and NHS patients will enjoy home-cooked food which will be prepared on the site and have access to a day room. There will also be a laundry on site.

The same contractor that originally built Rothbury Community Hospital is undertaking the building work so they have extensive knowledge of the building and we have every confidence in their ability to ensure the facility is of excellent quality.

Other positives include there now being another local employer in Rothbury and supporting the local economy. It is hoped that most of staff recruited will be from the local community and full training will be provided. There will also be a day centre and Rothbury Cottage Care Ltd is also looking to provide home care subject to demand and recruitment. They will start advertising various posts from July.

We are committed to making this partnership work for local residents as we appreciate that people have had to wait for a very long time for a solution. We would like to thank residents and all stakeholders for their patience, feedback and support.

 

Tell us your experiences of using health and social care services in Rothbury and across Northumberland.

Hospital discharge during COVID-19

A new report from Healthwatch England and the British Red Cross looks at how well the new hospital discharge policy is working for patients, carers and healthcare professionals.

In March 2020, the Government introduced a new hospital discharge policy to help the NHS free up beds by getting people out of hospital quickly. This meant anyone who may need out-of-hospital support to help them recover would now have their needs assessed after being discharged, rather than in hospital.

The report shows significant numbers of people are not receiving follow-up support after being discharged from hospital under new policy, leading to unmet needs. Read a summary of the report below.

What did people tell us?

Overall patients and families were very positive about healthcare staff, praising their efforts during such a difficult time.

However, while the speed at which people were discharged from hospital was important, it often led to a lack of support for some patients leaving hospital.

Key findings

  • 82% of respondents did not receive a follow-up visit and assessment at home and almost one in five of these reported an unmet care need.
  • Some people felt their discharge was rushed, with around one in five (19%) feeling unprepared to leave hospital.
  • Over a third (35%) of people were not given a contact who they could get in touch with for further advice after discharge, despite this being part of the guidance.
  • Overall patients and families were very positive about healthcare staff, praising their efforts during such a difficult time.
  • Around a third (30%) of people faced an issue with delayed COVID-19 test results, potentially putting family and carers at risk, or in a care home, other residents and staff.

What are we calling for?

To improve hospital discharge for patients, their carers and healthcare professionals, ahead of winter and a second wave of COVID-19 admissions, we’re calling on the health and care sector to:

  • Roll out post-discharge check-ins by phone or in person
  • Develop a discharge checklist, including questions about transport and equipment needs
  • Improve communication by assigning a single point of contact for patients and carers
  • Link patients to voluntary sector partners or community pharmacists to deliver medicine and avoid delays.
  • Boost community care capacity and recognise the value of voluntary care sector in hospital discharge.

Read 590 people’s stories of leaving hospital during COVID-19 

 

NHS asks ‘do your bit’

Don’t just turn up to A&E – think pharmacy, 111 and GP first

Public asked to #doyourbit to protect the NHS by keeping A&E free for serious emergencies.

Health leaders across Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle and Gateshead are asking people to do their bit by thinking pharmacy, GP and 111 first, and not just to turn up to A&E.

The plea is the first part of a new ‘do your bit’ campaign aimed at raising awareness of the first routes people should take for urgent medical advice and treatment, following the disruption caused by Covid19.

Health chiefs say that due to social distancing and infection precautions, the space available in A&E to care for people and allow NHS staff to work safely has been reduced by 30-50 per cent. Action is needed now to protect patients and staff alike from now and into the future.

Bas Sen, a Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and Regional Clinical Advisor for the North East and Yorkshire said: “We want to make it easier and safer for patients to get the right advice or treatment when they urgently need it. We are now putting in place measures to support and guide the public to make the right healthcare choices. This will help ensure their safety, as well as making sure they get the right treatment in the most appropriate place.

“Specifically, if their need is not life threatening, we would advise patients to contact their local pharmacy, their GP or 111 online in the first instance.

“Advice will be provided based on individual issues and solutions will range from self-care through to an appointment with a GP, or being directed to go to a pharmacist or Urgent Treatment Centre.

“Those that do turn up to either an A&E department or an Urgent Treatment Centre, will be assessed clinically by a member of our team and if suitable, will be re-directed to a more appropriate service for their needs.”

The campaign is supporting a pilot scheme which commenced on 3 August by the NHS in the North Integrated Partnership (ICP) area (which covers Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland) before being rolled out across the region in September 2020.

Bas continued: “Too many people who come to A&E can be dealt with quicker by an alternative service such as their pharmacist, GP or 111. In light of COVID-19, and with winter ahead, it is more important than ever that we don’t have large volumes of people in our surgeries, clinics and hospitals when they could have been cared for elsewhere.”

“Because of the need to socially distance our hospitals have reduced space in waiting rooms and with around 50-70 per cent of attendances at A&E made up of patients who walk-in we must keep people safe – especially our most vulnerable and shielded patients.

“By thinking of alternative services such as pharmacist, GP and 111 first people can do their bit to help stop the spread of Coronavirus, keep people safe and keep A&E for real emergencies. At the same time this also means they will get the right treatment in a timely manner, in the most appropriate place for them too.

“So please don’t turn up or walk in to A&E or urgent care services without seeking advice from either a 111, GP or pharmacist, first – unless your condition is life threatening.

“Please remember that NHS 111 can make direct appointments at surgeries, pharmacies and urgent treatment centres. They can also send an ambulance should your condition be serious or life-threatening.”

In addition, we are asking people to act responsibly and consider carefully the impact drug use and alcohol has on people behaviours which can increase demands within A&E departments.

Clinical lead for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System, Professor Chris Gray, said: “The support for the NHS has been amazing over recent months and as winter approaches we will be asking people to keep this up and do their bit to protect the NHS and each other. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all our health and care staff across the North East and North Cumbria. The last few months have been difficult and their commitment to delivering excellent quality care has never waived.”

Our Strategic Plan for 2020-2022

The plan below sets out our plans for the next three years, as identified by the Healthwatch Northumberland Board.

We have three strategic aims which are the themes for our work over the lifetime of the strategy. Our work each year will be identified as meeting one or more of the aims.

Health: with the help of Healthwatch Northumberland, the views, knowledge and experiences of health service users and carers are listened to and influence changes and developments in health service in Northumberland.

Social Care: With the help of Healthwatch Northumberland, the views, knowledge and experiences of service users and carers are listened to and influence changes and developments in social care services in Northumberland.

Communication and Engagement: the people, service providers, commissioners and key stakeholders in Northumberland know, trust and are involved with Healthwatch Northumberland.

 

Read our Strategic Plan for 2020-2022

Annual Report 2019/20

Our Annual Report for the financial year 2019-20 is out now. Have a look to see what we’ve been up to, what people told us about their experiences of NHS, health and social care and how we made a difference to people in Northumberland.

 

Healthwatch Northumberland Annual Report 2019/20.

Events

Share your experiences – join our online forum

As we will be unable to get out and about across the county to meet with and listen to people for a while, we’re holding some public online forums, and we’d like you to join us. If you are unable to take part but would like to tell us about your experiences of these services, Caroline and Lesley will be available by phone, text and email each Wednesday between 3.00pm and 4.00pm to listen, answer any questions and help with providing information about services.

The forums will take place via Zoom. Read our guide on how to use Zoom.

Whilst some of our forums are on specific issues and services, this one is a chance to tell us about any health or social care service you’ve used in the last 12 months. That could be hospitals, GPs, care homes, NHS 111, mental health services, maternity services or dentists and pharmacies.

If you would like to take part please contact Laura Kane: laurak@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk, or call 03332 408468.

Find out more about our other online forums

 

View of Berwick town from the bridge

Public Drop-in Session for Berwick Hospital Plans

People are being invited to a drop-in session next Thursday, 27 September to give their views on plans for hospital and leisure development in Berwick.
Representatives from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Northumberland County Council will be at the The Swan Centre from 10am to 12pm to listen to people’s views and answer any questions.A spokesperson for the trust and council said: “We’re fully aware that some local people have concerns about co-locating a hospital and leisure centre on one site and we’d encourage residents to come along and talk to us about them so we can better understand how they feel.

“Ahead of the session we’d like to reassure people that the funding for the new hospital is secure as is the funding for the new leisure centre. We look forward to meeting people on the day.”

We will be there to listen to people’s reactions to what they see and hear on the day.

Public Meeting – Berwick Hospital Consultation

A public meeting is being held in Berwick to discuss people’s views on the possibility of a new integrated hospital development.

NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is working with partners at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Northumberland County Council to consider the possibility of the new hospital in Berwick being part of an integrated development including health, social care and leisure services.

The public meeting is being held as part of the ongoing listening exercise which was launched in February to give members of the public the chance to give their views about the potential new integrated development and about the different sites that are available.

The public are encouraged to come along and listen to the emerging themes and give their views on an integrated hospital development for Berwick and the surrounding area.

If you would like more information please contact Melody Price: 01670 335185 or email: melodyprice@nhs.net. You can also give your views by visiting NHS Northumberland CCG’s website at: www.northumberlandccg.nhs.uk or on twitter: @NHSNlandCCG or facebook: @northumberlandccg.

Morpeth Market Drop-in

We will be market stall holders on Wednesday 21 February, when we visit Morpeth Market to talk to local people about their health and social care experiences. Good or not so good, praise or concern, we want to hear your thoughts. You can also complete our annual survey which will help us discover what matters to you about the care you and your family receive from GPs, hospitals, dentists, mental health services, pharmacists, care homes and any other service you may use or need to use in the future. Pick up one of our pens, lip balms or stress balls if you’re quick!